Italy. June 7. 2021. According to his family members, Cesare is on hunger strike for several days now. For months he has been held in total isolation in a wing in Calabria prison because the other prisoners there are Islamist terrorists. Cesare has repeatedly demanded his transfer because he has received multiple death threats from Islamists and he is virtually unable to see his relatives. Imprisoned 40 years after acts for which he has self-critically accepted political responsibility, authorities have accused him of being particularly dangerous in order to execute the state’s revenge.
Cesare must get out of this situation, which aims to destroy him.
Shortly before the start of his hunger strike, he demanded this once again in a letter to the relevant authorities at the end of May, pointing out again that he has in fact been in total isolation for 27 months.
The following is a translation of a letter written by Cesare, which recently appeared on Carmilla on June 6, 2021, and was written during his last hunger strike in the fall of 2020. We also refer again to the article ‘Calabrian Guantanamo‘ that we published in the last issue of Sunzi Bingfa, in which Cesare goes into detail about his political history.
A Dog Sunday – Cesare Battisti
I put on everything I could to drive the cold out of my bones. In fact, the day outside is sunny. And in that case the weather here can’t be that unpleasant. It’s the nerves. In the absence of calories, it’s a sudden feeling of abandonment that makes me shiver. But if I want to continue to believe, to resist hunger, I have to turn it off in time.
The destruction of the planet that has also reached Calabria. One should not be so careless as to blame it on the drifting melting caps. Just before I started chattering my teeth, I read the encyclical. A friend of mine who is a nun – just to keep up – had sent it to me. It is both commendable and frightening how the Pope jumps on all the evils of the planet. Finger on the pulse, no objections. But the good Francis has nothing to do with my cold. The icy breeze does not come from outside. Not even from the heart, which is in good hands. But from my stomach, which, empty since Friday morning, is squirming under the blanket. Don’t get me wrong, not even in Guantanamo Calabro they let the prisoners starve. It’s my fault, I’ve been fasting to avoid trouble.
It all happened so fast. It was supposed to be a normal day in the isolation unit. Something went wrong.
I have so often wondered, with all the time in the world, what need a convict has to cultivate insane habits: everything in its damn place – every movement studied to the millimeter. As if the cell is a showcase and we are precious works of art in it.
Airtime in the “box with boots”, as the Albanian from beyond the wall calls it, is at 8:30. The shower, afterwards, to get rid of the melancholy of the solitary walk. Between these two main events, a myriad of gestures and reflections marked by internal algorithms. No matter how hard I tried to stick to the set schedule, that Friday morning slipped away. Even before I got out of bed, my mind and things seemed tired. I tried not to think about it. Despite the confusion, I took to the air with that almost joyful restlessness that always takes hold of me when something doesn’t feel right.
There is nothing supernatural about a convict’s sixth sense. In retrospect, it reveals many details that we don’t see in everyday life, but that are not lost for the hunted animal. And that’ s how it must have been on Friday morning. In fact, I found it quite normal to be called into the infirmary without a mask. I was not too surprised when from a corner of the corridor a handful of agents, led by their natural leader, jumped towards me. Impossible to argue with, even less to resist. They didn’t even need that much staging to get me into their ISIS bunker. Can you imagine yours truly being confronted with so much chilling force?
AS2-ISIS (1) is exactly as they described it to me: a kind of gloomy vault in the Rossano complex. Of course, the penitents here are not even entitled to the usual tiles. Most noticeable is the rough concrete that dominates the entrance. The only resistance, which was, well, passive, was when they tried to take me to a cell that deserved some impressions. From punishment to punishment. I did not dare to touch the bed or the chair, the accumulated dirt was so enormous. I stood in front of the toilet…. and started to scream.
Today is Sunday, October 18, and I have no idea how to get this letter out. It’s barely 10:30 and behind the armored car someone has already shouted “il praaanzo!” in Arabic, I assume, and that will be all until Monday morning. There is no dinner on Sunday at Guantanamo Calabro. Seriously. Lunch, dinner and bread are the three Arabic words I know. The trusty doesn’t ask me, he knows that I will refuse to eat from the first moment. The closer asked me if I was on hunger strike. I replied that I have no appetite, in order not to have to say that I do not trust him.
I was taught to read and write, in moderation. I preferred my little radio to television, with a certain indecency of the station. It also screams, and then the volume of the phone goes up, that is when there is an attack. So far I’ve managed not to leave my cell, but there are still Saturday and Sunday in between. If you want a cheap shot, you have to wait until Monday morning. In 1981, I had a brief period of the infamous Article 90 in Fossombrone. (2) Looking at it from here, it wasn’t so bad.
(1) “AS2-ISIS” is a neologism created by Cesare. AS2 is the Italian classification of high-security prison, and it is precisely in this wing of Rossano Prison in Calabria that, apart from Cesare, only Islamist “dangerous persons” are imprisoned.
(2) Regulates the particularly “harsh prison regime”, i.e. the conditions of isolation, including contacts to the outside….